ByFathom | It’s no longer a surprise to anyone that our smart phones, real-time alert watches, fitness bands, virtual assistants, and social media apps are making us feel anxious, guilty, less productive, and more than a little narcissistic. But with a steady stream of breaking news alarms, live-streams, text pings, and reply-alls, it’s impossible to really get away from it all.
Or is it?
Some people can self-moderate, go cold turkey, or make their assistants manage their digital lives. Normal people, on the other hand, the kind without the iron will to resist one last Twitter scroll or Instagram refresh before bed, may need a bit more hand-holding in the form of a service or experience wherein unplugging is necessary, or even mandatory.
That’s the gist of this installment of the Fathom Travel Awards, our year-long celebration of our favorite places, people, and products in the world. We looked high and low and asked connected friends for the best ways to disconnect. When we compiled our list of The World’s 10 Best Off-the-Grid Hotels for Total Digital Detox, we made sure to check for cellular dead zones, spotty WiFi connections, low-fi room amenities, and other obstacles to keep people from effectively being distracted.
Not surprisingly, the ten destinations we settled on are situated in spectacular natural landscapes (no one can offer abundance as retaliation of societal excesses like Mother Nature can), with accommodations and environments that encourage reflection, relaxation, and recharging with physical activities, good food, spa treatments, and plenty of alone time.
Side effects of traveling this way will most certainly include dopamine boosts, increased mindfulness, a better appreciation of one’s environment, and a general sense of awe. Take one and call us in the morning.
Isolation in Italy: Eremito
Parrano, Umbria, Italy
Entrepreneur Marcello Murzilli spent four years planning and building his modern-day monastery, all while living in a tent on a nearby grassy knoll, the better to serve his vision of an environmentally conscious sanctuary safe from the digital age. The fourteen-room retreat, built stone by stone using centuries-old masonry techniques, is nestled in the Umbrian hillside, a 90-minute drive from Rome, and goes to great lengths to simplify life as we know it today. Part of the Design Hotels collection, it’s a new kind of travel experience made specifically for the solo traveler: There is no double occupancy, no internet, no minibar, no television. A gong sounds nightly at 8 p.m., signaling the start of silent dinner, which is sourced from the garden and nearby farms and served in a refectory-style dining room; illumination is mostly by candlelight. There’s breakfast and lunch, daily yoga and mediation, a stone grotto with a hot tub and steam bath, and a beautiful pastoral landscape all around. Eremito means “hermit” in Italian, a reminder to look within and channel that inner recluse.
Inaccessible Alaska: Sheldon Chalet
Denali National Park, Alaska, U.S.A.
For much of the 1950s, the mountaineer and cartographer Don Sheldon and his pioneering wife Roberta explored and mapped parts of the Alaska Range in what was then called the Territory of Alaska. They registered a claim for a 4.9-acre parcel of land under the 1898 the Homestead Act, an isolated peak of rock projecting above a large expanse of snow ten miles from the summit of Denali. A generation later, the Sheldon kids opened a homey and high-end five-bedroom glacial island lodge, accessible only by helicopter or plane. A stay here is about viewing nature in its extreme, as the hexagonal chalet has panoramic views of pristine snow and sparkling glaciers that go on for miles. Data, cell coverage, and internet connectivity does not exist. (The on-site guides, chef, and concierge use a radio to communicate to the outside world.) Every single piece of lumber, every drawer pull, and every Alaskan King Crab leg is flown into a tiny airstrip built by the elder Sheldon. There are no people, no animals, and almost no vegetation. Just peaceful silence and incredibly fresh air. Up to ten guests can stay at a time, sharing locally sourced meals, swinging on hammocks, cozying up in front of the fireplace, and taking advantage of a bevy of excursions: glacier trekking, skiing, rappelling, heli-fishing for local salmon, flying over a mastadon bone yard, picnicking on local charcuterie and foraged foods in an igloo, and visiting remote hot springs. Nightly shows include meteor showers, ice blizzards, avalanches, and unfettered views of aurora borealis.
Caribbean Reverie: Petite St. Vincent
St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Caribbean
After flying to Barbados, taking a puddle jumper to Union Island, and hopping a boat to finally land ashore on this little-known Caribbean island (referred to as PSV), the outside world will be a distant memory. Part of the reason the tiny island resort is so perfect is because it’s hard to reach. There’s a strictly unplugged-luxury vibe, which has been partly cultivated and partly left alone for the last 50 years, as the resort teeters on being a wholly sustainable operation. Guests of the 22 simple waterfront cottages have access to pristine private beaches, impeccable service, and the Jean-Michel Cousteau Caribbean Diving Center. (It says something about the quality of snorkeling and diving when Cousteau picks PSV over thousands of other islands dotting the Caribbean.) No locks, no clocks, no TVs, and no wireless in the rooms. There are landlines in the main office and, depending on the weather, you might find a lingering cell signal from a neighboring island, but the idea here is to completely disconnect. Guests can walk, bike, or hitch a ride in a little truck called a Mini Moke. A flag system is used at each cabin to communicate with staff – a red flag means “do not disturb;” a yellow flag means the guest has a request. Meals are local, fresh-caught and may be served in your room or beach restaurant (sand floors, no shoes required). The spa is built into the hillside, with wooden pathways leading to treatment rooms overlooking the water. Kayaking, sailing, and catching the sunrise after a restful sleep are all on the agenda.
Remote Seychelles: Alphonse Island
Outer Islands, Seychelles
The ultimate getaway vacation is a pristine, private island resort 250 miles southwest of Mahe, the capital of the Seychelles, and a long ways from the African mainland. Needless to say, there’s no WiFi and even cell service is sketchy, but with all that’s available on this unspoiled dot in the middle Indian Ocean, what reason will you have to phone in for anything? Among many watersports and wildlife viewing opportunities, there are giant tortoises to meet, turtles to track, spinner dolphins to swim with, game fish to hook, saltwater fly fishing to try, and coral reefs to explore. (Alphonse is the only island in the Outer Islands to offer scuba diving.) Accommodations include 22 private bungalows and five suites, each air-conditioned and equipped with private bicycles, outdoors showers, and easy access to the remote island’s ubiquitous white-sand beaches, which you’ll be spending all of your sunsets on, if you’re not on a catamaran drinking cocktails at sea.
Patagonian Nature Overload: Bahia Bustamante
Not that you’d want to sit around checking emails when you have a sustainable sheep farm, an island full of Magellan penguins, and a 60-million-year-old petrified forest nearby, but at this former Patagonian seaweed settlement turned seaside eco lodge, you really don’t have the choice. There’s no cell phone service and electricity is only available in the evenings, during which time the WiFi offered in the lobby is spotty at best. The beautifully restored cabins, which used to house settlement workers and their families, don’t have TVs either. All the better to help you focus on why you trekked down here in the first place – to revel in the natural beauty and biodiversity of the area’s beaches, bluffs, and farmland. Part of Patagonia Austral Marine National Park and UNESCO’s Patagonia Azul Biosphere Reserve, the grounds are teeming with wildlife – sea lions, rare birds, armadillos, and guanacos included – which guests can observe on a number of bike rides, treks, and tours organized in tandem with the day’s weather conditions.
Want more digital detox? Read the full list of off-grid hotels on Fathom.
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